The Ethical Price Tag: How our personal values are subconsciously shaped by what we are seeing and reading


Value is defined by the Google Dictionary as “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.

Thus, when we say “it’s not worth $50”, we’re making a judgement call. We’re actually saying that thing “doesn’t hold $50 of value for me“.

I love my $200 body composition bathroom scales, but if you offered me (and if I could easily afford) a $200k+ DEXA scanner, would I want it?

The call I’d make is whether it was 1000x (i.e. $200k / $200) more useful / worthwhile to me. For me, the answer would be “no”, but for a pro-athlete? Maybe a different response. 

Value isn’t assigned by the price on the label, but by the buyer – and, because it’s an opinion the buyer holds, it means the seller can change their mind. 

Essentially, business marketing is about persuading someone that something is useful to them. 

But what about the OTHER definition of “value”? The personal one?

Google Dictionary defines this as “principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.”

I have inbuilt values that dictate how I live my life on a day to day basis. 

But how do these compare to monetary values?

Well! Just like a good marketing campaign can shape what you believe the worth is of a product or service, your personal values and ethics can also be shaped by external ‘forces’.

Our values come from past stories that we have told ourselves or have heard or seen from those around us. It means that we begin to ABSORB even the most personal of ethical morals from what is going on around us.

We may not previously have thought much about having the personal value of “protecting others”, for example, and yet now we are wearing masks to help avoid others suffering. This new value many of us are developing has come from news stories, WHO advice, government campaigns and so on. 

We have been shaped into people who protect others (through the use of masks) by the information that we are absorbing. We would not necessarily have automatically come to do this, and make this association between a strong ethical demand to protect others, and the wearing of a face covering.

Whilst this is a GOOD (in my opinion) shifting of personal core values, we need to be conscious of what we are subconsciously absorbing. Just as when we spend money, we use a cost-benefit analysis (“is this worth $50 to me?”), we need to be thinking of our personal values similarly. 

“Is protecting others worthwhile to me? Is this a value I want to adopt?” [I hope your answer is “yes” to this one, by the way!].

There is value in EVERYTHING to someone – you just need to work out if that someone is you. 

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